Saturday, December 28, 2013

Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears

Moskva slezam ne verit; romantic tragicomedy, Russia, 1980; D: Vladimir Menshov, S: Vera Alentova, Irina Muryanova, Aleksey Balatov

Moscow, '58. Katerina, Lyudmila and Antonina are three young girls who moved to the capital from the province. They share an apartment and try to set foot in the city, while Katerina tries to enlist in a university while working as a mechanic. When Lyudmila has to take care of an empty apartment of an uncle who went to a vacation, she persuades Katerina to pretend they are noble students in order to invite rich men and find an easy life with a wealthy husband. In an act of carelessness, Katerina has unprotected sex with Rachkov and - stays pregnant. Rachkov does not want to have anything with the pregnancy, so she has the baby, Alexandra, and decides to raize her herself. 20 years later, Alexandra is a grown up girl and Katerina a director of a company. She finally finds a right husband, Gosha, but he leaves her when Rachkov visits Katerina to see his daughter. But Nikolai finds him and reunites the couple.

One of only four Russian films of the 20th century that won the Oscar for best foreign language film, gentle humorous drama "Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears" is weaker than other striking winners "War and Peace" and "Dersu Uzala", but is still a kind-spirited, unassuming and quiet chronicle of a provincial woman who raizes her daughter all by herself in Moscow. Sometimes stiff and stagy, and definitely overlong for such a light story, "Moscow" is nonetheless a pleasant watch centering around small people and their fates, and even unobtrusively adding a subtle socialist element in the subplot where Lyudmila only wants to marry a rich man, a man of status, but does not find happiness as Katerina did, who found a decent husband from the working class. The humor is scarce, but just enough to wrap up the melodramatic story in a better package, and those comical moments work the best. In one such moment, Katerina and Gosha are lying in bed until she realizes that her daughter will be back home any minute, so they quickly get dressed up, pack the portable bed back in the couch and quickly turn on the TV when the teenage daughter arrives. The other is when Nikola is searching for Gosha, who left Katerina, so he shows up in front of a woman on a door and pretends to be a KGB-like agent, asking her: "Grigory Ivanovich, or Gosha, or Goga, or Yuriy, or Gora, or Zora...Does he live here?!" "Moscow" could have been better, yet, overall, it is a positive viewing experience with emotions and understanding of people.


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